he Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) is pushing the proposal, arguing that it would provide a big boost to tourism in the state.
Incidentally, Maharashtra has a law on casinos - the Maharashtra Casinos (Control and Tax) Act, 1976. However, the rules were not framed and the act was not notified, or made operational
It has suggested the state to allow offshore casinos — which could operate from a yacht off the coast — where entry would be limited to foreign tourists. If the venture turns out to be successful, the government consider allowing Indians as well to play, according to the proposal that ET has seen.
Aware that there would be many ranged against the gambling business, MTDC wants the casinos to be operated exclusively by the government for the initial couple of years, before private players are allowed in the sector. "This would allow the government earn a huge amount of money, but also give a huge boost to tourism," said a senior state official on condition of anonymity. Currently, Goa and Sikkim are the only states that allow casinos in India.
Incidentally, Maharashtra has a law on casinos - the Maharashtra Casinos (Control and Tax) Act, 1976. However, the rules were not framed and the act was not notified, or made operational. In last October, the Bombay High Court, hearing a petition challenging the delay in framing the rules, directed the government to take a stand on the issue. "There are only three options before the state government; one: frame policies and enforce the law, two: study what other states are doing with regards to legalizing gambling, or three: repeal the Act through the legislative route," said Jay Sayta, a researcher in gambling laws and founder of GLaws.in, a gaming laws web portal.
"This casinos business should not be allowed, there are other ways to earn revenue for the state," said a senior BJP minister when ET sought his comment. "If this proposal ever comes up, I will oppose it." However, a top bureaucrat said: "We are permitting lottery. Lakhs of people spend their money on it, yet we don't seem to have a problem with it. Casinos and lottery both work on the principles of luck. The state has debt of Rs 3.30 lakh crore, this (revenue from casino business) would come in handy and boost our tourism, too." Manoj Sethi, director of Golden Gaming International, which has opened a gaming zone in Gangtok, Sikkim, supported the move. "It's high time they legalized casinos in Mumbai," he said.
"There're so many illegal clubs functioning out of Mumbai already, in apartments and rented out office spaces. The state is losing out on a lot of revenue by not legalizing it."